Dr. Cathy Fitzgerald – now an Art & Ecology Research Fellow at the Burren College of Art

‘The Burren College of Art is a small, independent art school situated on the Wild Atlantic Way on the northwest coast of County Clare in Ireland. It is located in the Burren, a region famous for its natural beauty and unique ecosystem. We are an internationally recognized Irish non-profit college specializing in undergraduate, postgraduate and alternative approaches to fine art education.’

An Ash tree at the Burren College that was lit-up in my car headlights on a cold winters evening in early 2019. I noticed it all of a sudden after leaving the college one afternoon. The startling beauty of the area is such an inspiration and reminder of the Burren College’s teachings and its fantastic residential – studio opportunities for developing and established artists. See the website for more information: https://www.burrencollege.ie/

This time last year, I was invited by the Dean of the Burren College of Art, Conor McGrady, to teach the ‘Art and Ecology 16-week module’ for under-graduates.

New to sharing my knowledge after recently completing my PhD by Practice on ecological art: ‘The Ecological Turn, it was such a valuable opportunity to translate my knowledge into accessible, practical learning for others who are at the exciting stage of developing their professional creative careers.

It goes without saying that this opportunity afforded me so many real-world teaching insights for developing my modules for my ecoliteracy courses and workshops. I wish to thank Dean Conor McGrady and Dr. Eileen Hutton and especially my students for making me feel so welcome and teaching me as much as I shared my ideas with them.

I have since been invited to be an honorary Research Fellow at this wonderfully vibrant college that works so sensitively within and for its local environment.

As a Research Fellow, I will continue to share my research knowledge with the college and come occasionally to teach (I will be at the college again on Feb 19, 2020, giving a talk about my practice and research and tutoring current students). I will be so looking forward to reconnect with staff at this beautiful college and travelling again to this unique area of outstanding geologic and natural heritage.

#FridayArt4Emergency: Lisa Fingleton’s annual 30-Day Local Food Challenge

It is not easy to eat local Irish food all year round and I know that. There are hungry months in late Spring when the food is just not ready after late frosts. So three years ago I decided to do a trial month: A 30 day local food challenge. September seemed a really good option as the garden is truly abundant with tomatoes, kale, spinach, herbs, peas, beans, onions, garlic, beets, carrots, parsnips and the list goes on. It is a luscious month in the gardening calendar. To eat Irish still means doing without what Barbara Kingsolver called ‘botanically outrageous’ foods, but it is somehow easier this month with all the food on offer in the garden and hedgerows.

Lisa Fingleton talking about the annual 30 Day Local Food Challenge

A creative eco-social art practice that I really admire is Irish artist Lisa Fingleton’s 30 Day Local Food Challenge. The creative idea grew several years ago when Lisa was horrified to read the 40 listed and many imported ingredients in a BLT sandwich, and then and there, decided to challenge herself to just eat local Irish food for a month. She then shared her challenge on social media and others became involved.

Growing up in a household where her father grew all their food and now living on a small farm with her partner in Co. Kerry, Ireland, Lisa’s creative practice awakens awareness of the unsustainability of the globalized food system for herself and her local community. Her work highlights the shocking statistic that only 1% of Irish farms grow vegetables, the lowest in the EU  (which is doubly shocking considering Ireland’s history of famine). Most heartening is that Lisa’s practice has uncovered and promoted networks of local food producers in a fun and engaging way.

Lisa brings many strands of artist activity together and through drawings, photos, keeping a diary, and great conversation fosters much needed community awareness about an urgent topic for us all.

Over time, Lisa’s 30 Day Local Food Challenge has developed considerable national press and radio attention. Lisa has since toured the project to other counties, conducted children’s workshops and created a very delightful, informative book about the project (which can be purchased from her website (http://lisafingleton.com).The-Local-Food-Project-Book-For-Sale

Three years later, this year’s 2019 Challenge is underway for the month of September and I’m happy to see the idea is catching on across the country. To join in, go to https://www.facebook.com/groups/30daylocalfoodchallenge/

And, it is a challenge once you start, to only eat food from your country and forgo all the imported treats and exotic fruits. However, making decisions about your food does makes real how the industrial food model all too easily has alienated us from being sustainable and self reliant. When environmental writer Naomi Klein writes thats ‘everything must change’, Lisa’s work shows how creative workers can help communities foster ecoliteracy, fun and agency for a better world we know is possible.